Jerry Sandusky was respected by Penn State players, others

By Mike Still


To those who knew Jerry Sandusky well, the headlines that broke this past weekend about the longtime Penn State assistant coach are nearly impossible to comprehend.

Sandusky, who was named a Penn State Alumni Fellow in 1999, has been charged with 40 sex charges against boys from 1994 to 2005 by the state Attorney General’s office.

The reputation and legacy of the man many consider to be the “father” of “Linebacker U” has been severely altered overnight. And some of those who played under Sandusky are shocked by the arrest of their former coach, who created the non-profit organization The Second Mile to help troubled young boys.

“I can only say positive things about [Jerry],” said Bruce Bannon, who played under Sandusky from 1970-1972. “These allegations, I don’t understand. I don’t know what to say. From a personal standpoint, he was a great coach, a great individual, and I thought he gave a lot to the community. I can only think of the positive things he did when I knew bestowed.”

During his tenure with the Lions, Sandusky produced 10 first-team All-American linebackers and was honored as the Assistant Coach of the Year in both 1986 and 1999.

“He was a motivator,” Bannon, an All-American linebacker in 1972, said. “Guys wanted to do well. He motivated people in a very positive way. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t tough. If you made a mistake, you’re gonna know about it. But I think of him in a positive way, and feel sad there’s a dark cloud above him and his introvert.”

Sandusky was widely considered to be in line to be Penn State’s next head coach if Paterno retired some time during the 1990s.

Sandusky reportedly spurned head coaching jobs elsewhere, including the position at Maryland in 1991, in hopes of succeeding Paterno.

He ultimately announced in the summer of 1999 that he’d retire at the end of the 1999 season and planned to devote more time to The Second Mile.

“Retiring as an active coach will permit me to devote more time to The Second Mile. As the organization has grown, the demands for my hands-on involvement have increased dramatically,” Sandusky said in a statement released by the school in 1999. “I’m anxious to devote my full-time energies to expanding the reach and influence of The Second Mile in a day and age when more and more kids seem to be at self-esteem.”

Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, have six adopted children and have received awards for their philanthropic deeds including 1993 NAACP Human Rights Award, the 1995 YMCA Service-To-Youth Award and the 1996 SGMA Heroes Award for the Second Mile.

“After we had taken in some foster children we saw the opportunities that some kids just hadn’t had,” Dottie Sandusky told Sports Illustrated in 1982. “But we’d gotten to the point where we couldn’t take in any more, so Jerry started thinking about starting a group Mile.”

Bannon described the allegations against Sandusky as “shocking.”

Penn State football historian Lou Prato reiterated Bannon’s thoughts.

“[His players] loved Jerry,” Prato said. “I guarantee Nittany Nation is shocked by this. A lot of people can’t believe it. “

Bannon said Saturday he didn’t know the details of Sandusky’s charges.

But until any verdicts are made, Bannon said he can only recall fine memories of his days playing for Sandusky.

“All I can do is talk about the Jerry Sandusky I know, who was a great football coach and a giving person,” Bannon said.


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